Storytelling against Extremism

Cogni­tive radicali­zation is charac­terized by an individual’s accep­tance of a certain extre­mist ideo­logy. It is widely believed that contem­porary radi­cali­zation processes of both jihadists and right-wing extre­mists are partially shaped by the narra­tives and stories extre­mists postu­late in their propa­ganda. In many cases, the consump­tion of these narra­tives takes place in the digital sphere.

Consider­ing that narra­tives are per­ceived as crucial for radicali­zation processes, it is unsur­prising that narra­tives also feature promi­nently in efforts to prevent and counter (violent) extre­mism (P/CVE). Narrative cam­paigns against extre­mism, often labeled counter-narratives and alter­native narratives, have become a prominent yet heavily criti­cized tool to mitig­ate the impact of extre­mist narra­tives online.

In her disser­tation, Linda Schlegel exa­mines an aspect that has been conspi­cuously absent from the current litera­ture on P/CVE narra­tive cam­paigns: How can good story­telling support the per­suasive effects of narra­tive cam­paigns against extre­mism? To this end, she trans­fers insights on narra­tive persuasion in other con­texts such as enter­tain­ment-education efforts, to the P/CVE field. The aim is to demons­trate the impor­tance of high-quality story­telling in counter-extremism efforts and show that narra­tives against extre­mism can be improved signifi­cantly by build­ing upon existing insights on narra­tive persuasion generally.